Suffering as Metaphysical Narrative:
Another Author’s Story

Cyrus Ali Zargar

The Qur’an begins its description of the betrayal, imprisonment, and ascendancy of Joseph by declaring it an example of “the most beautiful of stories.” Among its central themes is Joseph’s lack of agency vis-à-vis the events that happen to him: Joseph finds himself trapped, condemned, and finally redeemed. In this paper, I explore the futility of human agency as an outlook that brings consolation when embraced. This perspective appears in full relief when contrasted with what Stanley Hauerwas has described as the quintessential modern American aspiration, namely, to be “a people who believe that they should have no story except the story that they chose when they had no story.” The perception of an intelligence, or Other, who shapes and alters our personal stories facilities the cultivation of receptive character traits. These traits do more than yield persons of grit. Indeed, they place one within a world subject to interpretation.

About the Presenter

Cyrus Ali Zargar is Al-Ghazali Distinguished Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Central Florida. His first book, Sufi Aesthetics:  Beauty, Love, and the Human Form in Ibn ʿArabi and ʿIraqi, was published in 2011 by the University of South Carolina Press.  His most recent book, The Polished Mirror: Storytelling and the Pursuit of Virtue in Islamic Philosophy and Sufism, was published in 2017 by Oneworld Press. His forthcoming book, Religion of Love: Sufism and Self-Transformation in the Poetic Imagination of ʿAṭṭār, will be published by the Islamic Texts Society.